HC Deb 02 May 1962 vol 658 cc1013-4
23. Commander Pursey

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, if he will state the name of the depot ship for nuclear submarines, the date of launching, the original cost and also the cost of refits and modernisation of this ship; and when she will be berthed at Gareloch.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

H.M.S. "Maidstone", during her current refit and modernisation, is being equipped to support nuclear submarines. She was launched in August, 1938 and her original cost was£993,000. It is not customary to quote costs for refit and modernisation until the work and detailed accounts are completed. The ship is expected to be berthed at Gareloch on 21st May.

Commander Pursey

Would it not have been cheaper in the long run to have built a new depot ship and thus obtain a modern hull with modern machinery and a longer life, instead of unnecessarily wasting money on this old ship?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We are always anxious to get the best value for money expended in this way. We expect at least ten years' life from this ship. We believe that this is a wise investment and it is cheaper to do it this way than to start again.

Mr. Burden

Does my hon. Friend realise, in connection with the submarine programme, that there is at the moment very serious concern among workers in Chatham Dockyard because of doubt about the future of submarine building? Will he give an undertaking that the moment it is possible to make an announcement, that announcement will be made?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I can readily give that undertaking and I shall try to find an opportunity of having an announcement made when a decision is taken.

Mr. Gordon Walker

What is the reason for this customary practice of not publishing the costs until the completion of the vessel? What is the ground for it?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is a longstanding arrangement which happened under the right hon. Gentleman's Government as well as ours. When a new vessel is built nowadays, about one-third of the total cost comes from Admiralty supply items. Therefore, the complexity of assessing the full accounts and the detailed arrangements is considerable. That is why we wait until the business is over before producing an up-to-date estimate which we publish in the Navy Estimates. I do not think that it would be realistic to try to advance that date.

Mr. Willis

Surely the hon. Gentleman's Department has to have approval for an estimated expenditure from the Treasury before proceeding with this work?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes, we do.